Thursday, October 16, 2014

31 Days of Horror-Day 16: The House of the Devil (2009)

(dir. Ti West)

     There are many modern horror film directors that proudly claim their 80s influence, but few capture the essence of those films as well as Ti West does with The House of the Devil. The film centers on Samantha, a college student desperately in need of money for rent. On the night of a full lunar eclipse she takes what is supposed to be a simple babysitting job, only to find herself in the middle of a ritualistic cult practice.

     West doesn’t simply situate the story in 80s, he matches the aesthetic of those films in everything from the music, lighting, and camera angles. The success of the film also owes a lot to cinematographer, Eliot Rockett, who provides the film with some gorgeous imagery. What you’ll get here aren’t glossy shots filled with ex-CW stars and a soundtrack of 80s singles. Instead you’ll get a carefully crafted, slow-burner of a film, supported by memorable (and appropriately 80s accurate) performances from Joceline Donahue, Greta Gerwig, and Tom Noonan. The House of Devil has the earnest feel of an actual piece of horror film-making, and not a product meant to be franchised off.

      In terms of story, The House of Devil doesn’t offer much originality. Your film knowledge of cult rituals isn’t going to need any reevaluation, but that doesn’t mean the tale isn’t satisfactory. The film may require a certain amount of patience for some, given the lack of actual satanic practices for most of the film. However I found the film’s exercise in style to be more interesting than the climax. The first time I watched this I was disappointed by the last fifteen minutes, expecting something more drawn out. But upon a second viewing the ending sat better with me. It doesn’t have the same slow build as the first hour and twenty minutes, but the climax is effectively strange and eerie. As a whole, if there was no information informing you that the film came out in 2009, you’d be hard pressed not to claim it wasn’t a product of the 80s.

Scare Factor: 3/5  The House of the Devil is a near perfect example of creating creeping dread without relying on gimmicks or an abundance of effects. While his buildups are better than his resolutions, there’s no denying that Ti West is one of the best modern horror filmmakers in the business.

**Available to watch on Netflix Instant

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